It cannot serve as the primary verb of a clause, but it often follows the main verb.
An Infinitive may be a subject or follow a linking verb.
It does not indicate any tense. That is the job of the primary verb.
- to walk
- Sara wants to walk a mile every day.
- (primary verb = “wants,” infinitive = “to walk”)
- to bake
- In school, my twins are learning how to bake a cake.
- (primary verb = “are learning,” infinitive = “to bake”)
- to use
- Grandpa plans to use his home office for a weight room after he retires.
- (primary verb = “plans,” infinitive = “to use”)
- to lift
- Grandma thinks that he is too old to lift weights.
- (verb in first clause = “thinks,” primary verb in second clause = “is,” infinitive = “to lift”)
- to explain
- She refuses to explain what she means by “too old.”
- (primary verb = “refuses,” infinitive = “to explain”)
In earlier years, splitting an infinitive with another word (often an adverb or an adverbial phrase) was considered a grammar crime. Now, however, the Chicago Manual of Style considers it “a legitimate form of expression and nothing writers or editors need feel uneasy about” (14th edition, 2.98n).
- The boys sat at the table to happily eat the banana cream pie.
- (Infinitive = “to eat,” splitting adverb = “happily”)
- Mary pushed out her boat to merrily row it upstream.
- (Infinitive = “to row,” splitting adverb = “merrily”)
- The instructor wanted to find a way for his students to unwittingly learn the material.
- (Infinitive = “to learn,” splitting adverb = “unwittingly”)
- Swimming is good exercise.
- (“Swimming” = gerund as noun, subject)
- I love swimming in the ocean.
- (“Swimming” = gerund as noun, direct object)
- Being in the water allows rapidly moving arms and legs without feeling the effects of gravity.
- (“Being” = gerund as noun, subject)
- (“Moving” = gerund as verb modified by the adverb “rapidly”)
- (“Moving = gerund as verb with direct object [“arms and legs”])
- (“Feeling” = gerund as noun, object of preposition [“without”])
- (“Feeling” = gerund as verb with direct object [“effects”])
- Walking your dog is good exercise for you and the dog.
- (“Walking” = noun as subject, “dog” = direct object)
- Children today are guilty of wanting more than they have.
- (“wanting” = noun as object of preposition)
- My cat has been accused of sleeping under the covers of my bed.)
- (“sleeping” = noun as object of preposition)
- I have told Garfield many times, “Sleeping on my head is not acceptable.”
- (“Sleeping” = noun as subject)
Grammarians may argue about the function of “-ing” forms in any given sentence, but unless you are diagraming clauses, it really doesn’t matter. (See me hunch down to avoid being hit by a 2×4 in the hands of a raging English teacher.)
(“Raging” there is an adjective. Is that a gerund or a participle?)
(Click on each tense flavor for more detailed explanations.)
simple (present, past, future)
progressive or continuous (present, past, future)
perfect progressive (present, past, future)
“IF” statements (conditional)
- conditional present (probable)
- conditional future (probable)
- conditional past (hypothetical)
- conditional for situations contrary to fact
Irregular forms of verbs